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No evidence of accelerants, nor source of ignition, was found. The defendant lived directly across the street from the victim of the Barnard Road fire, and he had done work for her. They had had an argument over the length of time a particular job had taken, and she disputed his bills. The defendant became angry with her, and he did not return a telephone call she made to him.

The Barnard Road fire occurred about one week after the defendant last worked at the house. The police spoke with the defendant after the Barnard Road fire on two occasions. The defendant admitted that he was familiar with the interior of the Barnard Road home, knew the location of the bedroom where the fire started, and also knew that renovations bad been recently made inside the bedroom. The defendant told the police he had been elsewhere when the Barnard Road fire was set.

He admitted to having been on the back porch of the Barnard Road home in the past to do work. When confronted with the evidence of his fingerprint, the defendant stated that he may have left it on the window when he checked to see if the window was locked while the victim was away and he was taking care of her cats. The victim of the Barnard Road fire stated that, about two months before the fire occurred, the defendant had fed her cats.

The defendant was not charged in connection with the Barnard Road fire.

Before prior bad act evidence can be admitted against a defendant, the Commonwealth must satisfy the judge that "the jury [could] reasonably conclude that the act occurred and that the defendant was the actor. United States, U. The Commonwealth need only show these facts by a preponderance of the evidence. Robinson, Mass. Liacos, Massachusetts Evidence s. If the judge finds this standard has been met, it is thereafter for the jury to evaluate the evidence for "its weight and credit.

Robinson, supra at The Commonwealth must also show, as a preliminary matter, that the prior bad act evidence pertains to the defendant's knowledge, intent, motive, method, identity, or some other relevant issue at the trial, Commonwealth v. Helfant, Mass. See Commonwealth v. Marrero, Mass. Jackson, Mass.

COMMONWEALTH vs. COREY J. LEONARD.

Lacy, Mass. In addition to showing the similarity of circumstances, the Commonwealth should provide evidence that there is proximity in time and place between the prior event and the crime charged.


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Marrero, supra, citing Commonwealth v. Brusgulis, Mass. All these preliminary determinations are committed to the sound discretion of the judge who also must consider whether the probative value of the evidence is outweighed by its prejudicial effect. Commonwealth v. Marrero, supra at , and cases cited.

The judge's decision "will be upheld on appeal absent palpable error. Valentin, Mass. The judge properly ruled that the Commonwealth had met its preliminary burden with respect to showing that the defendant had set the Barnard Road fire. There was no real dispute that the fire was an act of arson. In addition to that fact, the Commonwealth's evidence at the voir dire showed that the defendant had a motive and an opportunity to set the fire, that he was familiar with the Barnard Road home and its interior, and that his fingerprint had been placed near the point of the break-in to the home.

The defendant's statements to the police attempting to explain why he was not implicated in the Barnard Road fire could be considered inconsistent and contrived. The dispute over how the defendant's fingerprint was placed on the window did not require a ruling that the Commonwealth had failed to. On all the evidence at the voir dire, the judge could reasonably conclude that it "was up to the jury to assess the credibility of the witnesses and to determine [that fact].

Anderson, Mass.


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  6. We are not persuaded by the defendant's arguments to the contrary. The decisions he relies on are not helpful on this point. Thereafter, assuming the other foundational matters are satisfied, it was for the jury to weigh the ultimate probative value of the evidence. The judge also did not err in deciding that the evidence of the Barnard Road fire was relevant to the issues of identity and motive, and that the prior and current crimes had meaningfully distinctive similarities.

    The defendant strenuously disputes the latter point, stressing, as might be expected, circumstances that tend to distinguish the two incidents. But enough similarities existed to justify the judge's decision to admit evidence of the Barnard Road fire. Both fires started in the victims' bedrooms at, or near, beds in a pile of clothing or other articles.

    In both fires no incendiary devices were found, nor were any accelerants discovered. The defendant knew the layout of the interiors of the victims' homes. The fires were also linked by a close time frame and the circumstances that the homes involved were in the same general area in Worcester and in a location near where the defendant lived. In addition to these considerations, the judge also noted that, when arsons committed for insurance fraud are excluded, "the number of arsons [is] extraordinarily rare.

    Jackson, supra at , quoting Commonwealth v. Cordle, Mass. Finally, the judge carefully instructed the jury, generally in keeping with the request for instruction made by the defendant's trial counsel, about the limited purpose of the evidence and that they were not to consider it unless they independently found that the two incidents were linked by distinctive similarities.

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    The defendant asserts that the prosecutor in his closing argument improperly exploited the evidence of the Barnard Road fire to urge the jury to find him guilty of the victim's murder. The defendant refers to the prosecutor's statement that the jury should "look at [the Barnard Road] fire. The comment that was objected to was made by the prosecutor in the context of his effort to persuade the jury that the defendant had set the Barnard Road fire and that the jury could consider the evidence of that fire in deciding whether the defendant was "involved" in the February 1 incident.

    There was a basis in the evidence for the prosecutor to argue that, if the jury found that the defendant was implicated in the Barnard Road fire, they could also find that he had acted out of anger. The prosecutor's comments may have been poorly phrased. The prosecutor did not argue that the defendant had a bad temper and therefore was guilty of murder.

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    He did not suggest that the jury should find that the defendant had set either fire because he was a bad character. The prosecutor was careful to explain to the jury that the Barnard Road fire "is only really a sidelight issue for you because you don't have to say guilty or not guilty for that case, it is no charge on the verdict slip for you, it is just evidence that helps you decide on February 1 did [the defendant] light [the murder victim's] house on fire.

    Nothing was said by the prosecutor in this part of his closing that calls for a new trial. We have examined the entire record and find no basis to grant relief under G. We conclude that the objections made by trial counsel were adequate to preserve the issues for their consideration on appeal in the ordinary course.

    Mortis, Mass. Estremera, 37 Mass. He was on probation following a conviction for aggravated unlawful use of a weapon in All three had troubling criminal histories, signaling a general disregard for law and social norms. Yet they were deemed fit for parole or probation, resulting in two murders. In each case, both the perpetrators and the victims were black.

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    Though the decarceration crowd continues to point to racial disparities in criminal enforcement, the data on criminal victimization suggest that the burden of any crime increase that accompanied large-scale prisoner releases would mostly fall on low-income black communities. A BJS study of homicides committed from to found that the victimization rate of blacks was six times that of whites.

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    The black homicide-offending rate was about eight times the white rate. These differences, not racial animus, go a long way toward explaining the oft-lamented fact that black men are six times likelier to be incarcerated than white males.